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Liberia: Polls underway in presidential run off vote

Liberia polls run off   -  
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RAMI BALAGHI/AFP or licensors


Liberians began voting on Tuesday to decide whether to re-elect former soccer star George Weah to the presidency, despite his criticized record, or prefer veteran Joseph Boakai despite his age.

This second round of the presidential election promises to be close between two candidates who were already pitted against each other in 2017, when Mr. Weah won with over 61% of the vote.

Among the voters who turned out in front of the polling stations in Monrovia well before they opened, Taiyee Success Iledare, a 22-year-old student, made no secret of his preference. "My candidate is George Weah. Look around you, at the signs of development", he says in front of an open office in a school in Duazon, on the outskirts of Monrovia.

Irene Palwor Age, a 41-year-old shopkeeper, sees things differently. "My candidate is JNB (Mr. Boakai). He will bring change. JNB will create jobs for women and young people".

Mr. Weah, 57, and Mr. Boakai, 78, came neck-and-neck in the first round on October 10, with just over 43% and a lead of 7,126 votes for the incumbent.

This election is the first to be held without the presence of the United Nations mission in Liberia, which was set up in 2003 (and left in 2018) to guarantee peace after the civil wars that left more than 250,000 people dead between 1989 and 2003, and whose memory remains vivid.

The election "undoubtedly represents a crucial step in the consolidation of peace and democracy in Liberia and the region", said the UN in a recent statement.

More than 2.4 million voters are invited to cast their ballots from 8:00 am to 6:00 pm (local time and GMT) between an incumbent who remains popular among young people but must defend a criticized record, and an old hand who was from 2006 to 2018 the vice-president of Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, Africa's first elected female head of state. 

The electoral commission has 15 days to publish the results, but the matter could take less time, says one of its officials, Samuel Cole.

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